David & Layla
Writer-director Jay Jonroy, an Iraqi Kurd, dedicates his feature-film debut to the members of his family who perished in Saddam’s mass graves, then practically dishonors them with a preposterously awkward romantic comedy-drama. Obviously Jonroy means well, but that’s not enough to prevent him from mauling the true tale of fraught but perseverant romance between an American Jew (David Moscow) and a Kurdish Muslim refugee (Shiva Rose). To call it heavy-handed would be to imply the sort of control that’s sorely lacking here; David & Layla plays as just one protracted sequence of awkward beats after another, with its few truthful moments suffocated by throwaway sex-farce and culture-clash shtick, cartoonish supporting characters and other degrading clichés. Everyone in Jonroy’s cast is warm, appealing and touchingly willing to abet his project, but it’s less a movie than a disposable, low-grade sitcom.